This City Council likes to talk, but does it listen?
Council members will hear less public comment under new rules adopted this week, and it took a last-minute save just to rescue residents’ right to respond to late changes.
Credit Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray with sticking up for the public. She pushed successfully for the council to set a 5 p.m. online sign-up deadline to speak.
That’s two hours before a 7 p.m. meeting. (The current deadline is 6:45.)
But it could have been worse. City staffers originally discussed a 2 p.m. cutoff.
That would have ended sign-ups before council members had even begun working through their afternoon agenda discussion. No matter what council members changed that afternoon, it would have been too late to talk about it that night.
Gray, in her sixth year representing much of Riverside, Polytechnic Heights and Morningside, objected.
“There are things that happen during work session, and people would not have any opportunity to speak out that evening,” Gray said Thursday, calling the earlier time a “deal breaker.”
Not long ago, Fort Worth didn’t have a deadline at all. You just filled out a card or form.
I liked that. When residents come to City Hall, council members ought to find a way to hear them.
It is not a punishment to hear from your citizens. It is a privilege.
Lizzie Maldonado, a resident opposing new public comment limits.
The council went along with Gray’s plea. But council members also cut the time for a group’s spokesman to six minutes, and cut speakers’ three-minute limit to two on busy nights.
Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram
Two minutes is plenty of time to make a point.
But none of these changes made it easier to address the City Council. They all made it more restrictive.
That’s not the way government should be heading at any level, particularly not in a city with weak voter turnout and civic participation.
To speak to Fort Worth City Council, call the city secretary at 817-392-6164 or sign up online at fortworthtexas.gov/citysecretary/.
West-side political activist Lizzie Maldonado, one of a handful of opposing speakers, said as much.
“The rest of us have to organize by the hundreds to be heard,” she said.
“ … It is not a punishment to hear from your citizens. It is a privilege.”
If only more council members felt that way.
Fort Worth leaders listened as people from the street told what they think needs to happen to get the mile-long neighborhood out of its downward spiral. The Star-Telegram led the effort to jump-start the conversation.